In the Theocracy of Deseret

Over the past eighteen years, I’ve humorously noted that I live in the semi-sovereign theocracy of Deseret… and over the past week or so events in Utah have reminded me of that even more. The first of those events was the pronouncement by the LDS Prophet and Revelator that young men, particularly returned missionaries, needed to immediately settle down and get married, rather than enjoying the life of a single male.  Now… considering that something like 98% of these young men are 20 or 21 years old with either no college education at all or a year or so at most, and considering that almost all men anywhere marry someone their own age or younger, this pronouncement struck me  as a commandment with the direct impact of keeping women effectively barefoot and pregnant, since I’ve observed that, in the vast majority of young married couples in Utah, the woman forgoes or postpones education in order to support and educate her husband.

The Prophet also stated that men should treat their wives as equals, but no one seems to have remarked on the incredible condescension buried in this statement, because it carries the implication that women are not equal, but should be treated as such.

Interestingly enough, several other recent events and reports reinforce and illustrate this problem.  First, the Utah State Department of Education just sent a letter to a number of high schools declaring that a slide show that the state had developed on birth control methods “must not be used.”  Even more interesting was the fact that the slide show, in accord with Utah law, did not advocate using any form of birth control, but only factually presented various methods and emphasized that abstinence was the only 100% effective form of birth control and that condoms were not fully protective against many forms of sexually transmitted diseases.  That wasn’t enough for lawmakers and various activists, who successfully pressured the State Department of Education into withdrawing the presentation.

Third, in the wake of Equal Pay Day, figures from the Utah Department of Workforce Services revealed that Utah has: (1) one of the worst wage gaps between men and women’s wages; (2) the greatest gap between the wages of college-educated men and women of any state; and (3) is the only state in the union where the percentage of women graduating from college has declined compared to all other states.  Nationally, women earn 77% of what men earn; in Utah, the figure is 68%.   Nationally, men with bachelor’s degrees earn 1.3% more than women do.  In Utah, men with undergraduate degrees earn 6% more than do women with the same degrees; the state with the next worst discrepancy is Idaho, where men with a bachelor’s degree earn 2.7% more than do women with the same degree.  In 1980, Utah women graduated from college at a higher rate than women in all other states.  Although the graduation rate has increased somewhat, the increase has been so small that women in other states now graduate at a higher rate.

Another interesting fact is that Utah, for all of its cultural emphasis on marriage for life and eternity, actually has a divorce rate higher than the national average, and two-thirds of all Utah women with children work.  So… it’s not exactly as though all that support of husbands actually relieves Utah women of any financial burden or requirement to work.

And the Utah reaction to this?  Well… Senator Orrin Hatch opposed the Paycheck Fairness Act, designed to close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act, because civil penalties on employers who discriminated in paying women less were too high.  Also, the vast majority of the Utah legislature, as I noted in a previous blog, attempted to gut the Utah open records law and to remove references to the names and genders of state employees – which would have effectively made disclosure of pay discrepancies by gender impossible.

Now… if I have this all straight… young Utah men are supposed to get married before they finish their education, requiring their wives to support them and delay and forgo their education, and schools are not supposed to offer factual information to those young women about birth control, and… by the way, Utah has the highest birth rate in the nation and the greatest wage discrepancies between college-educated men and women… and the majority of Utah law-makers oppose both dissemination of birth control information and measures that would reduce pay discrimination against women.

Reporting straight from the semi-sovereign theocracy of Deseret…

38 Responses to “In the Theocracy of Deseret”

  1. David Sims says:

    You might be interested in a discussion I had recently with a religious woman, since in it I take the attitude that women and men are not equals, nor should they be pretended so merely because some people confuse equality with fairness, and then develop the mistaken opinion that fairness is a moral imperative.

    She began by saying that we are equals because we are all human. I replied that one and three are both numbers, but they are also unequal; i.e., equality has stronger requirements than similarity does, and the two should not be confused in language.

    “As a comparative word, equal is stricter and stronger than similar, and we ought not to confuse the requirements appropriate to each. We should resist political fashions that try to move us to do so.”

    There are a number of digressions in the discussion, but the main point of my argument is that women ought not be made the political equals of men as long as they retain privileges for which men must pay. The privilege on which we focused was “protection.”

    “Men and women are not equals if they differ in any sense. The most that can be said is that they are similar in some ways, but different in others…

    “But is even political equality, equality before the law, in respect of men and women, proper? If political equality exists, then men and women do not have different political roles. If men and women have different political roles, such as one gender being a protector, a provider of protection, while the other gender is being protected, a beneficiary of protection, then they are not equal even in the political sense.

    “It scarcely matters what the reason might be for why women need the protection that men can provide. Men aren’t to blame for what nature has done… Since men aren’t at fault, it is wrong to require them to pay service to their political equals for any actual differences.

    “Yes, women are the gender that gives birth to children, and the sex that has functional organs for feeding babies. Men also nurture children, by protecting them and by teaching them—just as women do. But you seem to think that women, as well as children, ought to have protection benefits from men, simply because they need it. Children need protection, but they don’t assert that they are the political equals of their fathers. Neither should women be the political equals of men, as long as they are receiving protection from men. No one can have equality while also getting special favors by special pleading: that isn’t equality; it’s whining one’s way to a superior status.

    “So choose. Do you want equality? Or do you want protection?

    “Ah. I noticed late that you mentioned natural selection. Yes, I am wrong on one point. I was wrong to offer the choice. Life is the highest moral good, truth is next, and all else, including freedom and justice, follow way behind in moral priority. So it is morally right for men to protect women. However, it is morally wrong for women to be given political equality with men.”

    • Derek says:

      I don’t have the words to accurately describe how wrong this is, but I’ll settle with this.

      Men and women are different, but are capable of achieving similar if not greater things. Such achievement varies by an individuals natural aptitude, personality, and inclinations.

      Legally, we should all be treated as equals. If you continue to insist that somehow men are superior because they are capable of providing protection and possibly food to a pregnant woman, surely we ought take this thought process to it’s furthest cycle.

      Had that woman who birthed you decided to bash your chauvinistic head in before you came of age, your “superiority,” would be useless. Had the woman not fed you and swaddled you and protected you from the elements, your “greatness” would not exist. That woman is the root of your “greatness”, and therefore any greatness of yours is by rights hers. Woman is superior because she creates men, and more women.

      Or hey, we could be reasonable. Men and women are equal by law, despite their differences, and should be allowed to pursue whatever fancies their individual tastes regardless of the outcomes.

      • Will says:

        To my way of thinking, equality means having equal shares of the benefits and costs. Thus, it seems to me that men and women are not equal by law. This is illustrated by the fact that men are required to register for Selective Service and women are not. If women want to be truly equal, then they should be required to share the same burdens as the men. Also, a large section of the legal code relating to divorce and child visitation seem to favor the women more than men. Now, I have heard that this has been changing in recent years but there is still no equality.

        As to your comment, “Woman is superior because she creates men, and more women.” I would just like to say I didn’t realize that women have mastered the art of asexual reproduction….As far as reproduction is concerned..I still don’t think that there is equality. It is a partnership and both parties have different tasks in order for a successfull outcome, but not equal.

        • I’m not sure you make the case for inequality, only for difference. Women are biologically stronger, and live longer, but men, on average have more muscle mass. The problem with using the law as the gauge for equality [selective service, et al] is that the law reflects the imperfections of a society.

          • Derek says:

            Will, my statement on women being superior was meant to be intentionally over the top. I’m a big believer in different, and legally equal.

  2. David Sims says:

    It’s possible that the Prophet recognizes the encroachment of Mexicans into American territory and recognizes that the birthrate among whites in Utah must rise so that they are not swamped by invading mestizos. Never underestimate General Birthrate; he usually wins his wars eventually. A higher birthrate is the only advantage the Palestinians have against the Israelis, and if it can keep them alive in their circumstances, then it might be wise for the Mormons to do similarly. Mestizos have a prodigious birthrate themselves, and if you don’t multiply, you will eventually be stripped of your lands.

    • Derek says:

      . . . I always wonder why the “race war” concept is appealing to some. I suppose belonging to some all encompassing group, the great “White” heritage, makes up for something lacking in a persons background, like achievement or self respect.

      Land that a person owns, who happens to be white, is not the land of all people that happen to be white. The accomplishments of one person, who happens to be white and male, are not the accomplishments of all white males. Individuals are capable of greatness, not some collective racial mass.

  3. rehcra says:

    Oppression through limited education should be a federal crime.Even if it is not meant as oppression but as a set of moral standards. Especially in political settings. Just my opinion on similar matters.

    -Rehcra

  4. Richard Hamilton says:

    Institutionalized values is a bit like military intelligence is often portrayed: an oxymoron.

    Agree or disagree with the values in question, they’d mean a lot more if subscription to them was completely non-coercive. The described conditions seem to approach or even enter into coercive territory.

    Now…I’m not saying an institution can’t have standards of conduct as a condition of membership. But if the institution is a unit of civil government, those standards should perhaps not greatly exceed what’s needed to keep people from significantly infringing on one another.
    Occasionally not being protected from hearing or seeing what you’d prefer not to doesn’t in my way of thinking constitute “significant”. One has a right to speak, and also a right not to be compelled to listen, and not to be subjected to disturbance of the peace; but not to be assured that one won’t ever be offended, since offense is in the eye of the beholder.

    As to “equal”, that doesn’t mean identical or guaranteed outcomes, it means no more than equal before the law, save perhaps where that would become forced conformity rather than an equal right to pursue legitimate opportunities.

    As an example, there are some women that can complete the same military training as men without standards being lowered in accommodation, but there are somewhat less; the rates of stress fractures among women were as high in one study as 12 times those of men. Could many women still successfully complete such training? Certainly. But they would be at higher risk, not just during the training, and one might not even wish to describe the higher risks if captured, although those who wished they had opportunities to serve in combat roles might be responsible to consider such things.

    The premise of equality before the law does not guarantee equal outcomes, and it may break down in conditions where standards sufficient to ensure effectiveness in certain roles with unusual demands cannot reasonably be adjusted to accommodate actual differences. Both expecting equal outcomes _and_ extending the recognition of an extraordinary situation to anywhere that it didn’t apply, would be unjust.

  5. Jamey says:

    I had a thought, a while back, to research and write an alternate-history story of a world where the LDS Church elected not to change its stance on polygamy, and therefore never became a state in the US. As might be expected, I found it likely wouldn’t have mattered much, as the President had already sent troops to settle things. But from what I can tell of your report here, it wouldn’t have made any difference, even if the US troops had lost.

  6. Grant Edmunds says:

    “Nationally, women earn 77% of what men earn; in Utah, the figure is 68%. Nationally, men with bachelor’s degrees earn 1.3% more than women do. In Utah, men with undergraduate degrees earn 6% more than do women with the same degrees; the state with the next worst discrepancy is Idaho, where men with a bachelor’s degree earn 2.7% more than do women with the same degree.”

    Do you know if these figures are just the working women and men, or all women and men. Because you are likely to find a higher percentage of stay at home mom’s in Utah than in the nation, which would naturally slant comparisons of this sort.

    “The Prophet also stated that men should treat their wives as equals, but no one seems to have remarked on the incredible condescension buried in this statement, because it carries the implication that women are not equal, but should be treated as such.”

    This statement is made because many men, now and throughout history, have, to put word it with utter delicacy, failed to treat their wives as equals, there is no condescension unless _you_ choose to put it there.

    Further, many of the things you are complaining about can be traced to a fundamental difference in the goals that some of the women in Utah have, and the goals you think they should have. Differences in belief and goals, even differences that lead to outcomes which seem to you undesirable, should be respected, insofar as those outcomes are not harming you. What I mean is: women have the right to choose what they think is important as much as you do, if you think their choice is bad, ill-informed, detrimental to themselves and thereby detrimental to society, then by all means, convince them to choose otherwise!

    As for pay-discrimination, the only way to get rid of it is to convince employers not to discriminate, and it has to be done on a personal level, no amount of legislation is going to fix discrimination problems, only teaching people not to discriminate will do that.

    I would end with this, no one is forced to follow the counsel given by President Monson. In fact, attendance at General Conference is not mandatory, nor is it recorded. He is God’s prophet on earth and we go to hear his words because they are from the Lord. I can assure you that were the world to give heed to his words discrimination would disappear as would war. We would have peace on the earth. By obeying his counsel you will be happier than by any other means you could find, whether you are a man or a women.

  7. David Sims says:

    Derek, the “race war” concept usually isn’t thought of in racial terms. Although what ends up happening is a war in which two races find themselves on opposing sides and learning to hate each other, what triggers the war is the perception of a chance for gain. That is why Mexicans are swarming into the United States. It’s why the Mongols began their horseback imperialism. It’s why the Jews took over Palestine.

    You’re not going to supply any good advice to anyone if you insist on fairness as the basis of your moral judgments. You ought to understand two things that, I suspect, you do not understand now. First, equality and fairness are not always the same thing. Second, fairness is not always a good thing.

    Good is a moral judgment, and all proper moral systems put the survival of their practitioner groups in first place of value. Whether being “fair” is good or bad depends on whether it helps or hinders people in staying alive.

    Why is survival, the continuation of life, in first place of value? Because life is a prerequisite for all other values. Because nothing matters to the dead. Because only to something alive may anything else be good. It’s very simple.

    Yes, I realize that there is individual variation within every demographic group. But for each demographic group and for each physical, mental, or behavioral characteristic, there is a distribution. It is often a “normal” or Gaussian distribution, a bell curve, defined by two numbers: an average and a standard deviation. The reason human characters usually occur in that kind of distribution is the way in which human heredity works, with every pair of genes that a child inherits is a dice-roll from the dominant and recessive genes of both of its parents.

    Just for illustration, take two six-sided dice and roll them a million times, and record how many rolls you get for two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, and twelve dots. Or, to save yourself work, program a computer to simulate the results. You’ll discover that the results form a bell-curve distribution in which rolls of seven and eight are more common than rolls of one or twelve.

    The inheritance of physical, mental, and behavioral traits in children through genetic combination follows laws similar to the rolling of dice. That’s why intelligence is bell-curve distributed within each race, and it is why different races have “gaps” between their averages of intelligence.

    Another thing you should realize is that truth is a high virtue, to which politeness is very inferior. When you sacrifice truth to politeness, you are doing wrong. It is morally necessary to do the reverse, sacrificing politeness to truth whenever there is conflict. And truth is frequently a very impolite thing.

    Life challenges life. The world has always been that way, and it always will be. Every people must overcome every challenge, or perish. And there are more perished nations in history than exist today: peoples who failed because they were not ready for what came at them. That can happen to us, too.

    This infatuation we have today with “equality” is a danger to us. When we no longer have the energy of fossil fuels to buffer us from the consequences of our egalitarian foolishness, the challenges we won’t be able to handle will exterminate us. We will become extinct, just another failed nation that does not matter any more, made extinct by a flawed moral code that doesn’t exist any more, and about which no one still alive much cares. We will either give up our egalitarian ways soon enough, or someone else, some other culture, will defeat us and take our place in the world.

    • Richard Hamilton says:

      @David Sims:
      Neither equality, fairness, nor tolerance are necessarily the highest of virtues. But so long as equality isn’t forced conformity, and none of those are taken to the point of becoming lies or self-deception, they are virtues nonetheless. Equality (before the law, not of outcomes) is a much safer alternative than entrusting any mortal authority, _regardless_ of what claims of divine inspiration it might make, to judge and distinguish among anything other than conduct, and that only when it threatens others.

      If or when the Most High decides to put in a personal appearance, then that entity alone would be entitled to judge more broadly. Any lesser being attempting to do so would almost inevitably do more harm than good, and anyone purporting to be the Most High’s spokesperson, let alone enforcer, should be regarded with grave misgivings, especially if there is any question as to concentration of power, or enforced relations amongst groups defined by anything other than minimal standards of civil conduct.

      As to fossil fuels, the US has _vast_ resources, only the technology to tap them cleanly (or the will to accept the risk of attempting it) is lacking. Much of the easy reserves are gone, but there’s perhaps 270 years of oil equivalent at current total fossil fuel consumption rate in oil shale alone. That may be high compared to those elsewhere, but there are also deposits in other countries, including some whose consumption is rapidly increasing as they industrialize. In any case, there should be quite enough to last until better alternatives (solar, geothermal, wind, even fusion eventually) become practical or possible. So as long as we don’t destroy our economy by trying to avoid the available in favor of the ideal, they’re really just not an issue. (No, I don’t have a problem with that conservation which does not trash the economy or individual living standards.) There _is_ however some issue as to how many want to have the same living standards _now_ as the West enjoys; that would be both impractical and messy. I tend to favor the notion of encouraging the 3rd world to solve its own problems without making them everyone else’s problems, which would be furthered considerably by reducing our dependence on them for resources, somewhat by conservation, but also by pursuing both long-term (more ideal) and short-term solutions of our own, and keeping in mind that the mix of solutions has to be sustainable _economically_ as well as environmentally and in terms of resource availability.

    • Derek says:

      Sims, this infatuation you have with tyranny is as dangerous as any extreme form of egalitarianism. The equality that I support is that of opportunity, regardless of sex, race, or whatnot. The outcomes are another issue entirely. I agree with the author that many “liberals” have difficulty seeing the difference.

      Your infatuation with tyranny is not surprising though after reading your blog. You’ll probably consider me a leftist or a “liberal” for disagreeing with your racist views and skewed quoting of statistics.

      I’m actually libertarian, but hey, anyone who has the experience and gall to disagree with a racist is obviously not intellectually superior.

      I leave this with a thought… Despite your efforts thrown out in defense of some giant racial collective, you’re an individual. You are alone. You’ve no claim on the achievements or abilities of your demographic.

  8. As noted already, there’s a difference between equality of opportunity and equality of outcomes. The second is generally a social and cultural disaster; the first is necessary because of the distribution of ability among any population. If the “haves” in a society restrict opportunity to their children, as has often happened, more and more people of lesser ability, but greater inherited power and wealth, initially gain control of society, but the greater the growing number of disenfranchised “able,” the more the likelihood of societal unrest and decline. Societies that repress equality of opportunity tend to crash and burn, but too few “liberals” make the distinction between equality of opportunity and equality of outcomes, and they’re anything but the same.

  9. Daze says:

    I’ve felt for some time that at least the central parts of the USA are drifting unknowingly toward the sort of future in Gravity Dreams, where they turn their back on science and become a sort of Baptist Iran,a theocracy with limited contact with the real world …

    • Richard Hamilton says:

      You must have been reading different material than I have…or at least reacted to it very differently.

      While I’m not fond of large-scale organized _anything_, as being entirely too corruptible, I’ve seen far more expression by militant atheists/agnostics going around saying that _all_ religion is destructive and we’d be better off if it were gone, than by folks wishing to institute bedroom police or redefine science to mean only what they believe in. Comments on articles on CNN for instance, tend toward that; they’re even seen on FOX, although as one might expect are perhaps less numerous there.

      Now, I assume that militant atheists remain a minority, just quite vocal. And I’m glad that pretty much anyone feels free to speak their mind, however much I disagree with them. But it does strike me as notable that there’s no lack of people of any opinion eager to have their opinion imposed on others, and it’s amusing that some don’t notice how similar that aspect of their own conduct is to their perception of those they oppose.

      Just saying, that aside from rather more limited regions than you identify, I doubt there’s much likelihood of a theocracy here. Maybe Utah (and the nearer parts of some adjoining states), in its weird (and limited) way, but not much else. (The few Mormons I’ve known were at least generally very well-behaved and also quite aware that neither compulsion nor anything more than rather gentle persuasion would be likely to be useful or effective. So while I may not care for either the organization nor for some of the distinctive elements of its theology, I have relatively little issue with the _conduct_ of the individuals I’ve encountered, which tends to be more commendable than objectionable at the individual level. I don’t approve of any one religion or denomination dominating government to the point of pursuing its exclusive policies…but given the history, on that particular case, I’m not surprised at how things have turned out.)

      One of these days I keep meaning to drive north (from Maryland) into Amish territory and strike up a conversation. Not to persuade, or even to mess with their heads, just to see where it goes. I have a suspicion we might agree on more than we disagreed on, if not on the details of how to pursue it. I’m far too much of a technophile (and an indoor type) to be comfortable with their lifestyle, and, in spite of what I’ve said about not trusting large organizations, have also seen the cliquish and near cult-like behavior that some portion of smaller groups fall into. Some organization being necessary, one where most authority is local but some _oversight_ is on a larger scale, seems to me the least prone to abuse. A little like the balance between state and federal government should be, were it not that the Civil War and its aftermath, not to mention the Great Depression, were used to justify gutting the Tenth Amendment.

  10. David Sims says:

    @Richard Hamilton. The US used to have vast deposits of light, sweet crude oil. It no longer does. What’s left is heavy, dirty crude, a fraction of the natural gas that was originally present, and some untapped coal. We are nowhere near as rich in fossil energy deposits as we once were. That is why we import so much oil. That is why one of the major reasons we go to war is to secure supplies of oil overseas.

    (The other major reason we fight so many wars is that Zionists are able to twist the US government’s tail through the media and the Federal Reserve.)

    You don’t need to be a god to see what works and what doesn’t work. You don’t need to be a god in order to understand that peoples who don’t do what works become extinct, and peoples that do what works become dominant. It is within the mortal capacity to divest oneself of nonsense and error. It might be rarely done, but it can be done.

    There is no alternative energy resource, except nuclear energy, that can be scaled up SUFFICIENTLY to replace fossil fuels as a means of generating electricity. Hydroelectric, geothermal, wind, and solar power, all put together, will amount to only a small fraction of the energy we’ve been getting from oil and natural gas. But the problem with nuclear power is that it has chronic safety problems and, even if there were no safety problems, nuclear power can’t be scaled up SUFFICIENTLY to replace fossil fuels before fossil fuels have been depleted. If we’d begun building nuclear reactors in the 1970s and finding ways to make them safe to operate, we’d have had a chance. But now it is too late.

    Before you prattle on about how I’m wrong about how much energy we can get from solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal power, do some research and discover where YOU are wrong. Fossil fuels have been the giant on the energy game board for a long time. The other sources have been much smaller players.

    • Richard Hamilton says:

      You’re probably not wrong that wind, hydro, and geothermal are never going to be a major player overall, _especially_ since even the most “environmentally friendly” forms of energy are also open to incessant criticism by those that one would think would support them. NIMBY applies to wind farms; hydro floods valleys, solar takes up too much area, etc. _Nothing_ is without some consequences; the best one can do is go with a mix that achieves acceptable results with out becoming just a different formula for a suicide pact. Economically and environmentally feasible should not be treated as mutually exclusive.

      Some form or combination of forms of solar power, not as we know it today, _could_ eventually be sufficient, and then some…but how achievable (both technically and politically) it would be is another story. Even fossil fuel is, stretching a point quite a bit, a form of solar power, since that’s where most of the energy to form it came from in the first place, although at least a portion of the radiation to drive the mutations that gradually brought life to being prolific enough that its residue became fossil fuels came from geological radiation sources, whose origin was in prior generations of stars. Biofuels, or catalytically released hydrogen, or any number of other things, are also in a sense (indirect) forms of solar energy. Solar energy isn’t just mirrors and boilers, or solar cells of gradually improved efficiency. Ignoring the biggest source of energy in the solar system is silly, even if most of the investment* has been in fossil fuels, would be foolish indeed.

      *something that is expected, as a whole at least, to produce financial returns, as contrasted with political excuses for increased government spending

      And despite having been 20 years away for 50 years now, I’m somewhat optimistic about fusion. There are two or three new approaches out there,
      different enough from those previously tried that one may yet succeed well before we run out of remaining fossil fuel reserves.

      As for what I said about the abundance of less desirable (messier, or harder to obtain and process) fossil fuels, I did check some numbers on that. 270 years is probably quite optimistic in terms of the portion that can be recovered, but is also a lot longer than would be needed to make alternatives feasible _if_ we don’t just fritter away the time, and also doesn’t take into account that more continues to be discovered. But even allowing for the optimism of that number, there’s probably enough time to pursue effective alternatives; indeed, in the sense that the real crisis may still be a generation or more away, it’s also a problem that people might still be tempted to put it off until it really is unsolvable in the time remaining.

      I don’t speak to your intention, only to your choice of words, but “Zionist” tends to be used as a rather ugly codeword, in conjunction with flights of fancy involving international finance, the Rothchild family, etc. On the one hand we should more often remember Washington’s advice about avoiding foreign entanglements; on the other, we should be more consistent about supporting those that have relatively tolerable policies at least toward their own people. A certain tiny middle-eastern country is quite a bit better than most of its neighbors in that regard, and is as interested in its own survival as anyone else might reasonably be expected to be. (However, a number of people have noted that the Federal Reserve seems to be rather unaccountable at best. The validity of that point can be a different sort of argument entirely.)

      Some limited degree of common sense is indeed possible to mere mortals, but uncommon. Being so uncommon (whether from mediocre ability or from conflicting agendas), barring the most compelling of reasons, the less people impose on one another above the minimum needed to survive and maintain some order, the better. I can call it as I see it when I see idiocy, but I’ll probably do better to choose my battles than to go around looking for them; most people would rather think they persuaded themselves of something than that someone else persuaded them.

      If one is serious about survival for oneself, those one cares about, and forms of society that preserve for them a reasonable range of choices, “too late” is not an acceptable concept. For anything, even one’s own past foolishness, to become an excuse for certain defeat, is only self-fulfilling, not inevitable.

      • Richard Hamilton says:

        PS I have no problem with nuclear energy having a prominent role to play as well, provided design, site choice, and the will to actually _use_ an already built waste storage facility are part of the picture.

        Nothing is without risk; I accept that. But when the half-life of some of the byproducts is much longer than any of our institutions have existed, and when the real energy crisis is perhaps still a generation away – not quite yet of compelling immediacy to most, it does take a longer view than the quarterly report, or the two, four, or six year election cycle, to recognize the balance between need for the energy and the commitment to employing it as safely as practicable.

        • Jamey says:

          And the arguments about where to store nuclear waste are pretty bogus. Look up Operation Plowshare, and take an eyeball of some of the craters left over from it. “Sedan” crater is 400 meters wide, 100 meters deep, and already radioactive. Dump the stuff in it – the coming generations will be *VERY* happy that we left the stuff where it’s relatively easy to get to – because they’ll be using it for more than just energy.

          How much storage is available in that one crater? I did the math for another argument on this one. Assuming an average density of iron, and the most common yearly mass of radioactive waste – I came up with a figure of 8000 years. Even if you assume it’s only as dense as water – we’re still looking at over 1000 years of storage. And there’s more than one of those craters.

          As for a safe reactor, all that really needs to be done is to have a base that melts when the temperature gets too high, and lets the fuel rods fall into randomly deep pits underneath so that no chain reaction can be sustained. No energy needed to run special pumps – it’s not like gravity and the melting point of metals are going to give a flip about minor things like earthquakes.

  11. David Sims says:

    @L.E. Modesitt. The problem with the legal inheritance of privilege is that it changes the standard by which the the worth of men is measured — from the genes to the bank accounts, from the blood to the wallet, from what a man IS to what he OWNS. It isn’t long before the possession of wealth has become a decisive advantage in the contest for more wealth. And so the rich get richer and the poor, if they get in the way, go to prison.

    Equality of opportunity is certainly better than equality of outcome. However, when opportunity is offered to all on equal terms, the losers who don’t qualify for a desirable opportunity, or who “try out” but don’t make the team, will complain, and they will organize in order to complain more effectively. They’ll hire lawyers. They’ll make lots of noise. They’ll engage in sophistry until you’re sick of listening to them.

    There must be a way of preventing these losers from getting through collective action what they don’t qualify for on account of a lack of individual merit.

    I’m Nazi enough to wish that the least able 2/3 of mankind would just up and die, because the remaining 1/3 would be capable of replacing the lost numbers, assuming that it were necessary to do so, and the laws of heredity would ensure that subsequent generations of humanity were superior, on the average, to those that had come before the purge. Nature generates quantity easily; it creates quality only after a long, difficult evolutionary struggle. And therefore quality is more precious than quantity, even with respect to human life.

    But whether equality of opportunity is better than some other distribution of opportunity is a question to be addressed empirically. By field testing done over an extended period of time. History can guide us, and it can suggest variations in how to distribute opportunity, but the question of “what’s best?” ought to be approached as any other scientific question would be, and not by any preconception about what is fair. And we ought not assume that we know what works; rather, we should test until we’ve found out what works.

    • Richard Hamilton says:

      I have a lot of trouble with the notion that on the one hand, each person is a unique life, while on the other, rather more than half do little to improve even their own lot, let alone that of their neighbors (I don’t much care for notions more abstract than individual and neighbors; society is not a meaningless notion, but it’s one that has too large a span for much mutual accountability.)

      But I’m quite clear on one point: _no_ centralized authority can be trusted either with the power to decide directly who is worth living and who isn’t, _or_ to intervene by doing much more to level the playing field than to oppose the most egregious and arbitrary abuses. The extremes of the first are obvious, but the extremes of the second are no less pernicious.

      Lord Acton was an optimist. Power over anyone but oneself eventually corrupts, period. Even necessary exceptions (children, subordinates in the workplace, the military, etc) should be limited by time or mobility of one or both parties.

      I guarantee that anyone wishing to take it upon themselves to select the most suitable to survive will be in for some very rude surprises. I personally will alter the selection for some few of the first attempting direct action along those lines that I encounter.

      Nor would I be alone; I can think of one quite a few years older than myself, who has seen friends (and at least one relative deemed unfit) disappear by the outrages of a particular historical authoritarian regime you mentioned. Said person, while perhaps not quite as quick as once, is still a very good shot indeed, and would probably miss quite a bit less than I would. I’ve heard very few of the stories of those times; nevertheless, there’s a _reason_ for “Godwin’s Law”: some things just aren’t a helpful conversational gambit.

      Moreover, it’s not hard to imagine a cautionary tale whereby some centrally planned scheme for species improvement turns out to be an evolutionary dead end. In fact, I’m reasonably sure such tales have been told, repeatedly, to say nothing of having been acted out on a less than species-wide scale.

      However, it’s quite a different proposition to put limits on how much of a public burden one imposes to protect people from the consequences of their own choices, actions, and shortcomings. That form of selection has the advantage of not being dependent on any central power or agenda, and has effectively been well-studied already, as demonstrated by our ancestors having survived to produce us.

  12. hob says:

    Ten people equal ten workers.

    If there are three workers who wish to group, that means effectively not having access to the other seven workers, which means they can do less.

    But the three workers can dominate the others by using their collective to enforce “law” and can then regulate work and who can do what.

    What happens if the seven form a collective?

    Would the three be excluded from the benefit of the work of the seven?

    How would they react?

    War?

    What work is being done now by all sides?

    Equality is not some half baked attempt at being Fair, it is the last resort of people wanting to retain their hold on Law and society. And the confused Racists who don’t understand that while the leaders of their collective/nations derive their strength from the grouping, they do so to access broader labor and resources in larger and larger quantities to retain their hold on said group, not for any significant uplift/benefit/social equality of the group.

    The racist/nationalist would argue that a war would settle the issue of who should be boss, but resources to keep people in check while simultaneously being the same resources needed in fighting enemies is detrimental as shown by the south in the civil war of America or Germany and Japan in world war two. Or in any feudal system.

    At the end of the day, a well educated and informed populace on the issue of equality is going to be of more benefit to a prosperous society simply because less time/resources are spent fighting even if the reality of economic divide is huge and obvious.

    It is not Capitalism that makes America powerful, it is the idea of inclusion and opportunity, not just of different peoples within America, but also by extension their place of origin. Although this seems to contradict any serious study of America the idea of inclusion and freedom is more widely spread and heard than any hard facts.

    The irony in all this is that the Racist/nationalist who wants Equality(for individuals within their group) and fights to subjugate others for it, is used by individuals within their group who wish to retain a class society within the same group.

    A class society which teaches them inequality in the first place and creates the incentive/desire for upliftment/equality translates beautifully for the leaders of said society into redirecting war against themselves to a desire into engaging in war with their “inferiors”–a war which is then used to gain outside resources and labor to keep the class society in place more firmly then if they hadn’t gone to war. If it wasn’t all so funny…

    • Richard Hamilton says:

      Most (I’m not so dogmatic as to simply assume “all”) cultures and diversity of backgrounds bring along with them worthwhile skills and the ability to recognize and pursue various sorts of opportunities.

      But it also takes an economic system that rewards effective pursuit of opportunities, not one that seeks to level outcomes.

      Capitalism isn’t perfect, it is (like democratic government) merely better than all the alternatives.

      I don’t think people are perfect enough for some pure libertarian utopia. Nevertheless, down to some minimum needed to control only the most egregious abuses, the less central authority, the better.

  13. Ryan Jackson says:

    So there’s one little fun aspect of what you suggested that doesn’t quite mesh with what you want, David. You want 2/3 of the population gone and leave behind only the top 1/3 to continue the world?

    I’d imagine such a thing actually would be good for humanity in the long term, but I wouldn’t possibly know as I wouldn’t be in that 1/3, neither would you. Are you an advance Doctor, Scientist, Judge or other person with a deep and massive education in a specialized field? Are you a cream of the crop soldier better than any other at protecting those under your charge, or in devising tactics and strategy to outwit an opponent?

    I’m guessing no. Heck, at the risk of sounding arrogant, I’m the type that would do okay in an apocalypse scenario, I’m well trained, well educated and a very solid, if not great, leader. But I can’t honestly say I’m in the top of society that would be worthy of keeping if we could only save so many. Without meaning offense I’d seriously question if any of us on this topic could qualify. And if we did, I don’t know that we would nessecarily choose ourselves versus futility fighting to save more of that doomed 2/3.

    That’s always the problem with great and sweeping gestures. They’re massive and they sweep far more than the original concept aims at, usually while leaving holes that pass over some of the things they were aimed at.

  14. Joe says:

    The genetic lottery takes more risks with men: there are more male idiots and more male geniuses than there are female idiots and female geniuses. Given that payscales are not linear (a CEO does not do 143x the work of the average person, but does get paid 143x more), it is easy to see men and women’s pay differs substantially. It is wrong to compare averages when distributions are highly dissimilar. Rather than striving for “equality between sexes” it would make more sense to me to strive towards non-exponential pay scales. This would also result in equality of pay between the sexes.

    We have created a very strange world in which we deskill entire industries, but simultaneously R&D requires incredible knowledge by the standards of people one century ago. Powerful countries rely on their technological knowhow, but politicians and corporations mislead and dumb down the public of those very same countries. Science is treated by many commentators as a closed finished religion and pronouncements made by authoritative figures are supposed to be believed: the risk from coal is greater than the risk from nuclear! Derivatives are safe! In reality Science is a field of curiosity and discovery… not absolutes. And education is denied in two ways to people: either they don’t get it, or they do, but it’s only vocational training so as not to disrupt the current power structure. I doubt this is accidental.

    • Jamey says:

      Joe – how do you measure the amount of work a regular worker done vs. the work of a CEO? Physical labor? Amount of responsibility exerted? I perhaps do agree that the ratio of 143:1 might be higher than it should be – but then again, how do we measure it?

      • Joe says:

        Paying CEOs a lot is not a given. For instance the CEO of the 10th largest airline in the world (Japan Airlines) makes $90K/year.

        http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/01/28/eveningnews/main4761136.shtml

        And while Steve Jobs makes a lot in stock, which is performance dependent, he only makes $1 in salary, which isn’t…

        If you look at the description of a CEO’s tasks (figuring out what to do, and how) you’ll see that good CEOs will be knowledgeable in a number of areas. However they will not be an expert in any of them… which means they have to ask their staff. Thus they are better off working to create understanding, consensus and buy-in than telling others what to do. Making much more money, sitting in the corner office not being disturbed, tracking cashflow and coming up with the next big vision isn’t how that’s done. Gaining a better understanding of what’s there and how to improve it is.

        http://www.inc.com/tools/ceo-job-description.html

        Today many CEOs think their role is to sell their company to other rich people and Wall Street… to serve as chief marketing executive. As such they need to schmooze with the wealthy and live that lifestyle. Once they have “upgraded their lifestyles” it is not too surprising that they lose touch about what their company does. In the tech industry, the lumbering dinosaurs that get acquired often had such overpaid bad CEOs.

        So what should good CEOs be paid? I would argue enough so that they can concentrate on their jobs, but not more than the top experts in their companies, and definitely not more than 10x the salary of the lowest paid worker in the company. This is the law in Taiwan. This is achieved in Sweden & Norway by public pressure. In Norway this is done by publishing everyone’s salary. If the CEO pays himself too much, people avoid his company.

        http://books.google.com/books?id=FT5EHHwlZBoC&pg=PA95&lpg=PA95&dq=norway+difference+ceo+worker+pay&source=bl&ots=P0s3qmkCKh&sig=QOsN1Uf4eXaS_eNw_vIIGjoJosc&hl=en&ei=EOyuTePuMsON0QHOpOS0Cw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=7&ved=0CD0Q6AEwBg#v=onepage&q&f=false

  15. Joe says:

    Money is fascinating. On the one hand it is just a unit of exchange. On the other, it divorces one from reality. When land was wealth, and one relied on one’s neighbors for services, one had to behave with some dignity. Now that money is the only medium of exchange, one can steal from the taxpayers, destroy an environment, store one’s stash safely in an offshore account and treat oneself to the most enjoyable experiences one can buy… Money is the psychopath’s dream come true. Seems to me this is a fundamental flaw, and explains why the small scale capitalism on which the US grew has morphed into the crony capitalism that dominates the economy today.

    • Derek says:

      Joe, perhaps you misunderstand the other options when it comes to units of exchange… If we were not trading in currency, we’d likely be trading in force. In the days when land was king, indentured servitude and all manner of slavery was more common and it’s morality unquestioned. When it comes to mediums of exchange, I’ll stick with the dollar, it’s sting is far lighter.

  16. Joe says:

    @Derek: I do not agree that one’s choice is limited to having a currency or indentured servitude. Nor do I believe history shows that money reduced indentured servitude. Indeed the cost of a slave in the US was around $50K in today’s terms. Slavery is a primitive form of mechanization of low skill jobs. Allowing indentured servitude is a handicap for societies competing on technical advancement since the needed intelligence is distributed at random across the population. The jobs of slaves are now done by machines.

    I also disagree that money is stingless. The collapse of the German Mark in the 1930s had a rather large sting. That’s why Germans still tend to be so risk averse, 80 years later. I doubt those who work in sweatshops, those who have lost their jobs due to deindustrialization would agree with you. These phenomena are enabled by the current monetary system. Even simple trade barriers would reduce these problems, as well as much ecological destruction. From a scientific perspective, we are entering the 4th mass extinction, the amount of drinkable fresh water is falling, food prices are surging, and as climate change affects the planet, I expect the effects of the next sting will be much worse. Why blame money for these problems? It just so happens that the richest corporations (Exxon) and people (Koch) invest in misinforming the public. Money divorces people from reality.

    Alternatives? L.E.Modesitt Jr suggests comp-time as unit of currency in Adiamante. There probably are others but we won’t find out if we sit back contentedly believing we live in the best of all possible worlds. That way lies stagnation and degeneration.

  17. christoph says:

    So much of this is a matter of personal perspective and values. Men earn more than women, but are more likely to end up in jail. These are facts, but the underlying causes are far from simple and don’t always point in a single direction.

    Most of the wage discrepancy disappears when factors such as hours worked and greater willingness of men than woman to work high-risk high-reward jobs such as crab fishing in the Bering Sea are taken into account. On the other hand, it seems likely that having more women in high-paying decision making positions in the white collar world would not only be more fair, but would also lead to a more balanced approach. Once again, since more men than women choose this career path a 50-50 split wouldn’t represent an “equal” situation.

    More men than women are convicted of crimes, thus more men are in jail. Seems simple, but if you look deeper, things aren’t quite so clear. Women are routinely given probation instead of jail time for crimes like armed robbery that inevitably land a man in jail. When a woman and man commit a crime together, lawyers for the state most often offer the woman little to no jail time in return for her testimony against the man, even in cases where the self-serving nature of the woman’s testimony might cause a discerning non-misandrist to experience no small amount of doubt.

    It turns out, in our “misogynist” society juries hate locking up women even for serious violent crimes, but have no problem locking up men for years for minor non-violent offenses. While there has been precious little research on the subject of rape in prison, what little has been done indicates that if prisoners were counted in rape statistics it is likely that the number of women raped in the United States would be rather small in comparison to the number of men who are raped.

    I won’t even touch the family court thing, except to point out that assuming women are better at parenting is like assuming men are better at business.

    Personally, as a man I would gladly trade the inflated wage differential for our legal and cultural approaches to circumcision and choice after conception. I’d trade the real wage gap for extending the consideration women already enjoy in those areas to men.

  18. David Sims says:

    Just for reference, for whomever it may interest, here are the primary energy resources used worldwide, with the amounts of energy provided from each. These figures are for the year 1999, and the units are quadrillions of BTU.

    FOSSIL FUELS.
    Petroleum, 149.70
    Natural Gas, 87.31
    Coal, 84.90

    NON-FOSSIL SOURCES.
    Hydroelectric, 27.10
    Nuclear, 25.25
    Geothermal, Solar, Wind, and Wood: 2.83

    Total energy from fossil fuels: 321.91
    Total energy from non-fossil sources: 55.18
    Grand total energy: 377.09
    Percent energy from fossil fuels: 85.37%
    Percent energy from non-fossil sources: 14.63%

    The source for these figures is the US Department of Energy (EIA).

  19. David Sims says:

    If you want to convert to SI units, 1 kWh = 3413 BTU.

  20. David Sims says:

    Derek, you (and Ayn Rand) probably are wrong about money being so beneficial. In order to construct the analysis in which money is found to be an unmixed blessing, Rand (and anyone else who pursues the argument) must turn a blind eye to the biological nature and evolutionary history of mankind. Rand talks big, and she sounds impressive, but she actually and deliberately obviates and obfuscates some of the most important ways in which the laws of nature impinge on human behavior.

    First of all, capitalism and money systems only measure men aright for a short time, in the beginning, where the different talents of men bring each man the amount of success he deserves. Once that time is past (a few generations), the legal inheritance of wealth brings some men more success than their biologically inherited virtues would merit. Meanwhile, other and better men who did not legally inherit as much wealth must adapt to less success than their biologically inherited virtues merit.

    There form distinct and identifiable social classes, within each of which individual talent might, to some extent, sort men according to biological merit. But at the same time the gaps between the classes grows. The possession of wealth becomes a decisive advantage in the contest for more wealth. The rich devise a thousand pretenses for why they are superior men, and philosophical symbionts such as Ayn Rand render them assistance by making it easier for the rich to believe those pretenses.

    In reality, the rise of money transfers the measure of man away from his physical being, away from his genetic constitution, and toward his legally recognized holdings of wealth: his bank accounts. This exosomatization of worth transfers man’s health, his vitality, his adaptive fitness into an artificial social construct that, really, is of no use to the species. And as this occurs, man withers in his quality as a biological organism. Our species develops weaknesses that it did not have before, and the weaknesses it has had intensify, i.e. get worse.

  21. David Sims says:

    @christoph. You might be right to have said: “…assuming women are better at parenting is like assuming men are better at business.” Here are some relevant facts and statistics, with sources identified.

    Children raised by their mothers only (i.e., in a fatherless home) account for:

    * 71% of pregnant teenagers.
    (Source: US Dept. of Health & Human Services, press release, Friday, March 26, 1999.)

    * 63% of youth suicides.
    (Source: US Dept. of Health & Human Services, Bureau of the Census.)

    * 90% of all homeless and runaway children.

    * 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes.
    (Source: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report, Sept 1988.)

    * 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders.
    (Source: Centers for Disease Control.)

    * 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger.
    (Source: Criminal Justice & Behavior, Vol. 14, p. 403-26, 1978.)

    * 71% of all high school dropouts.
    (Source: National Principals’ Association Report on the State of High Schools.)

    * 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers.
    (Source: Rainbows for all God`s Children.)

    * 85% of all youths sitting in prisons.
    (Source: Fulton Co. Georgia jail populations, Texas Dept. of Corrections 1992.)

    We know from statistics such as these that awarding custody to mothers causes an increased risk of harm to children. It is possible that less harm would result to children were fathers, rather than mothers, preferred by the courts as the custodial parent. And it would probably have the additional benefit of reducing the divorce rate.

    Child support, with a sexist preference for female parental custody, is an extortion racket that feminists invented and slid into American laws, where they plague us all. It isn’t about helping children. It’s about transferring wealth from men who worked to earn it to women who did not. Child support awards contain a large proportion of hidden alimony, or money that the women receiving it use for their own pleasure. It is not fair to men that they must thus sustain a woman who no longer provides them with those things which wives do for their husbands. Here are some more facts.

    Divorced mothers are about five times more likely to receive sole custody of children, as compared with divorced fathers.

    80% of divorced mothers with sole custody of children receive child support payments from their former husbands, but only 30% of divorced fathers with sole custody of children receive child support payments from their former wives.

    47% of divorced mothers who are ordered to pay child support to custodial fathers are complete deadbeats, but only 27% of divorced fathers who are ordered to pay child support to custodial mothers do not pay.

    (Source: Technical Analysis Paper No. 42, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Income Security Policy, Oct. 1991, Authors: Meyer and Garansky.)

    Now, suppose we pretend that we could remove the gender bias from the law. If fathers and mothers were equally likely to receive sole custody of children, if non-custodial parents all had the same odds of paying or receiving a child support award, regardless of their gender, then what would the ratio of deadbeat moms to deadbeat dads be?

    The per capita rate of deadbeats among noncustodial moms with a child support obligation, divided by the per capita rate of deadbeats among noncustodial dads with a child support obligation, is 1.74. Male parents have some combination of honesty, dutifulness and concern for their children that exceeds that of female parents by that ratio.

    It is likely that children would be better off if they were raised by their fathers, rather than by their mothers, other things being equal. It is also clear that, on a per capita basis, women are more likely than men to try to sneak away and not pay. If the gender bias in determining custody, and the further gender bias in deciding whether a child support award will be made, were removed from the law, it would be obvious that the typical deadbeat parent is a woman, not a man.

    Whether you judge by the per capita rate ratio of female to male deadbeats (1.74), or by the abuse/neglect statistics presented earlier, it seems likely that fathers are more responsible parents than mothers in about seven cases out of ten, on the average.

  22. David Sims says:

    Jamey, I think that Joe is right. Although the duties of a CEO differ from those of a laborer, I doubt that ANYONE can work 143 times harder than a laborer. Further, I doubt that the CEO has 143 times as much talent as the laborer does.

    Many will tell you that the high salaries of CEOs is the result of a difference in how plentiful the required talent is, but I believe this to be an exaggeration. Notice, if you will, that CEOs are not so easy to oust, nor so quick to fall, as a laborer is, upon negligence or failure. Even a bad CEO might get a big fat pension, or severance pay, or a golden parachute. But let a laborer look at a middle manager the wrong way, and he’s out the door!

    I think, rather, that status carries a kind of insulation from reprisals and penalties, and it also carries a form of inertia when one would press his way to rewards. That’s the biggest part of the reason for why top corporate executives get so much pay. Sure, CEOs sometimes fall. They occasionally even go to jail. But the rich do not suffer penalties in proportion to the harm they do. A poor thief who steals $100 will often spend more time in prison than the rich man who steals a billion dollars.

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